The venue, Strandsalon, which is situated between Stadtgraben and Trave, was full up. Over 100 members of the public were there to regale Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz with a plethora of questions. The Federal Chancellor kicked off the first Chancellor Dialogue with a breezy “morning folks”. One member of the public asked if he was getting enough sleep, given all the tasks he currently had on his plate. Scholz replied that when times were hard it was important to keep your feet on the ground and avoid mistakes. The important thing, he said, was to work with our partners to maintain peace and security in Europe.
BAföG Reform and the 9-euro Ticket
The next few questions touched on social issues: both the BAföG reform and the nine-euro ticket would help students, Scholz explained, saying that the 30 billion euros from the two relief packages were gradually taking effect. In addition, the Federal Chancellor explained, the Concerted Action programme, which brought together politicians, companies, and trade unions, was currently considering what the next steps should be to protect the weaker members of the population from excessive burdens.
The fact that the 300-euro energy benefit for all workers was taxed, he explained, was to ensure as much fairness as possible, as those who were economically stronger were subject to a higher tax rate.
More needed to be done in the long term, he went on, so as to encourage more young people to choose to become teachers, including in the municipalities. At the very least, he said, vocational training for young people should be cost-free.
Federal Chancellor Scholz expressed his satisfaction at the fact that a worldwide minimum taxation for large companies was in the pipeline but noted that one country still had to approve the measure.
Maternity clinics, nursing, skilled workers
One midwife complained that there were too few maternity clinics in Schleswig-Holstein and that people had to travel long distances. The Federal Chancellor said he was aware of the problem and promised that the action plan for the area would be implemented, which he said was something he took very seriously.
The members of the public at the dialogue event in Lübeck expressed great interest in the issue of care services, as did the Federal Chancellor himself, and he reminded them that he had supported the minimum wage for carers. The current plan, which would be reviewed at the end of the year, was for providers of care for the elderly to gradually conclude collective agreements. In addition, he said, legislative steps were underway to ensure better staffing, which was already the case for hospitals, where additional funding was available beyond flat rates per case. The problems with outpatient care, he added, had also been considered by the Federal Health Minister.
Scholz said that to address the shortage of professional workers, particularly in the skilled trades, it would be necessary to follow up after the decision-making phase in the eighth and ninth grades, as some youngsters took longer to develop an interest. This, he said, was the job of the employment agencies. In addition, he added, the legislation governing the immigration of skilled workers from the EU – as well as from other countries – was going to be simplified this year.
Pensions and inflation
Regarding the prospects for the future of pensions, Scholz said that a law would be passed in this legislative period that would guarantee a stable pension level for a longer period of time and that reduced-earning-capacity pensioners would also be better off than in the past. The calculation for new pensioners would be extrapolated as if they had worked until the age of retirement. The Federal Government, said Scholz, had just passed a law under which people who had been receiving a reduced earning capacity pension for a considerable period would receive a supplementary allowance.
With regard to the concern expressed by some about Russia's attack on Ukraine and in relation to the threat to social harmony in Germany due to high prices, Scholz said: "We have to stick together”. There were two relief packages in the pipeline, he said, and the Concerted Action programme was up and running to see what else needed to be done, step by step. "We want to proceed hand in hand with the public".
Railway services and city centres
One member of the public said that she now used train services more often, but was disappointed by the lack of reliability. The Federal Chancellor said he had reached an agreement with the Minister of Transport to rapidly implement three measures: invest in infrastructure, create the conditions for trains to be able to overtake each other, and more digitalisation.
He said that subsidies had been introduced to revitalise inner cities, particularly in the wake of COVID-19, whereby he would like to see more creativity in making it convenient to shop in city centres – as opposed to online shopping – where people could actually look at things in person, order them and pick them up.
Thanks to Turkish citizens – and what can be done against the radical right?
One man asked whether he had a message for Turkish citizens: "We would not have our current prosperity without you,” said Scholz. A student asked what steps the Federal Chancellor was going to take to combat the radical right. his response was that this would be monitored by authorities such as the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Also, he said, funding for programmes aimed at the promotion of democracy had been increased – and the whole of society had to get involved here, he added: this was not a task for the state alone.
"It was a good discussion," said the Federal Chancellor in summary. Some people even took selfies with him.
The CHANCELLOR DIALOGUE is a series of live events involving members of the public which will be held in all federal states. On each occasion, the Federal Chancellor has 90 minutes to answer questions from the public, who can ask anything they like. The Federal Chancellor wants to find out what moves people and what their political concerns are.